Peace and quiet [Miers un kluss] 2013
1 mvt | 8 min
Latvian and English
SMA/SMA
a cappella

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Premiered by

Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde

commissoned by

Paige Fumbanks Mathis
and the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde

About this Piece

After being invited to perform at the 8th World Choir Games in Riga, my friend and colleague Paige Mathis approached me about composing a work in both Latvian and English to be premiered at this spectacular international event. After much searching on the web, I discovered the poetry of Māris Salējs, and immediately reached out to him with the idea of collaborating together on this piece. As it turns out, he is also a musician, and since this work was to be premiered in his homeland, Māris was happy to provide the poetry for it. As I looked through his poems, I found two short works that contained the single lines “peace” and “quiet.” I instantly thought of combining these two ideas into the English idiom (“Peace and quiet”) for the title, and have intermingled the lines of Salējs’ separate poems into a single one for the purposes of this composition. Since I don’t speak Latvian myself, I enlisted Māris’ help, as well as that of two friends: Sabine Ruthensteiner and Heather MacLaughlin Garbes – to decipher the meaning of these poems, and perfect their pronunciation. Below you will find the Latvian text of this piece, as well as my English translation for singing.

This piece is composed for two 3-part choirs, and is about 8 minutes in duration. Throughout the piece, one choir sings in Latvian (transliterated into IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet), and the other sings in English. With each new phrase of the poem, the two choirs swap roles (and languages). Each English phrase is sung as a three-part melodic canon (at the third and fifth, or triad) with a two beat delay. Each Latvian phrase is intoned also as a three-part canon with the same delay, but as a non-melodic ‘recitation’ of the poem. With the iteration of each Latvian phrase, the reciting tone rises (a step in the scale between C4 and C5), and then drops the octave to begin again. As the Latvian canon rises up the diatonic scale, the rhythmic delay causes each harmonic unison to grow intermittently into a harmonic second. The resultant harmonic “clashes” within these Latvian phrases creates an effect that is like an aural “ribbon” – a seemingly endless strand of recited text that alternatively thickens and thins.

Text Credit

Māris Salējs

Sample Text

Peace.
The evening has taken in its unfurled sails.
The trees have intertwined their branches to form a wall.
The twilight breezes wander through the leaves that soon will fall.
And the tops of the pines are still.
The fields of barley glow and shine, after gathering the summer light.
The stork, having rested on its perch, spreads its wings wide to take flight.
The wind subsides, and dies away. It is warm.
Silently, I keep my memory of you alive:
It is like the most delicate glass,
Like my own very last breath.
Quiet.